Tag Archives: asthma

Thank You

After two months of ups and downs, I feel well enough to resume my blog.  I thought I’d be back on-line weeks ago, but obviously, I wasn’t.  I learned this week that people who take time away from blogs like mine post a note explaining why.  Live and learn, as the saying goes.  Please accept my gratitude for your concern about my health and your interest in my writing, and my apology for not posting a note to say that I was O.K.  When I’m off-line again, as will inevitably happen, I’ll let you know what’s going on.  I’m glad you care. 

Here’s the update:  My brief hospitalization in early January was probably due to my coming off steroids too quickly.  It threw my body into a tailspin.  These were medications commonly prescribed for people with asthma and breathing problems. My body’s reaction is fairly rare.  I may look like a typical woman, but evidently I’m not! 

So, I spent two months withdrawing from drugs that had improved my life and restored my breathing, but had caused dreadful and dangerous side effects.  Each time we dropped the dosage, my energy plummeted.  Basic household tasks were all I could manage.  My energy grew slowly as my body increased cortisol production.  Just when I felt better, it was time to reduce dosages and begin the process again.  Talk about a depressing scenario … I gritted my teeth and directed the fire in my eyes towards getting my life back, post-steroid.  I rarely had energy to check email or read the internet, initiate phone calls or visits with friends.  I lost my Facebook and LinkedIn passwords so many times that I haven’t visited those sites in weeks.  I put all my energy into doggedly making it through that darned withdrawal.

When I reached a plateau in late February, any new energy went into digging out of the paperwork that had piled up, and completing two tasks to which I’d committed.  I was so far inside the caves of Withdrawal Land that I didn’t realize how much you folks care and would want to know what was going on.  I feel truly humbled and touched by your presence in my life.

This week I’ve finally emerged into the sunshine.  The steroids are gone.  Paperwork is up-to-date.  Recent commitments were completed successfully.  My breathing is better than it’s been since May 2010.  If I had the stamina to party and dance all night in celebration, I’d do it instantly.  Instead, I’m thrilled to share this moment with you, my faithful readers.

Today I’ll request another set of passwords for Facebook and LinkedIn.  The next step is to record them in a notebook instead of on sticky notes. 

I’m lifting more weight at the gym and walking longer and faster on the treadmill.  I’m reading email and starting to reach out to friends again.  My dogs and I went for a 30-minute hike yesterday.  My stomach flutters as I remember how great it felt.

I’ll probably post on my blog once a week instead of twice. Twice a week was a pretty intense writing schedule for this time in my life.  Blogging once a week should give me more space for my learning curve, other writing projects, and the ebb and flow of my energy.

I’m glad you’re still here.  Thank you.

You’re Beautiful

quilt-second-try-e1415135539986[1] - CopyYour perfect job turns out to have a maniac boss and it’s not what you expected.  You discover your spouse isn’t perfect.  Or, as happened to me, you’re diagnosed with a health problem and your world turns upside down.  Marriages, goals and life in general can’t be programmed according to our plans and wishes.  It just doesn’t work that way.

As life sends us unexpected hurdles and experiences, we decide how we’ll respond.  Later, even when our decision has turned out well, many of us ask, “What if I’d made a different decision, or been dealt different cards?  Who would I be and what would I be doing? How would life be now?”

Clare O’Donohue writes about the process of reviewing choices and achieving internal peace.  In one scene of the book, a woman wants to see a former boyfriend.  Nell tries to understand why Bernie is so intent on seeing him.  Eleanor (a mutual friend) uses the image of sewing a quilt to help Nell understand the internal journey Bernie needs to make:

    “‘Why is a sixty-something-year-old woman still carrying a torch for her high school sweetheart? . . . I don’t think it’s the man.  It’s the life that could have been.’
    “‘But she’s had a good life, hasn’t she?’ [Nell] asked.  “Why have any regrets about the road not taken?”
    “‘Oh, I hate that,’ Eleanor said.  ‘That idea that we can’t have any regrets because our experiences make us who we are.  That’s greeting-card psychology.  We all have regrets.  The people we’ve hurt, the times fear held us back from exciting possibilities. . . .’
    “‘If she’s going to have regrets anyway, what good does coming here do her?” I finally asked my grandmother.
   “‘She needs to make her peace with them,” Eleanor said.  “Bernie is wondering what might have been, and she can’t shake herself out of it.  People get stuck like that sometimes. . . . It’s like when you make a quilt. . . . You see a pattern you like and you think you want to make something just like it for yourself.  But as you find fabrics, and cut and sew, the idea becomes something else.  Something real, but something different from that pattern.  If you measure the success of your quilt, or your life, by what you started out to do, more often than not you will decide you’ve failed.  But if you realize that the pattern you followed is the one you created for yourself, you will love the quilt you made, and the life you made, more than the one you thought you were supposed to make’(The Double Cross, Clare O’Donohue, pp 27-28, New York: Penguin Books, 2010).

It is not as simple for us as Eleanor makes it sound.  Sometimes in looking at the quilt of our life, we realize we need to make changes.  But in the end, Eleanor is right:  the pattern of our quilt is the one we create with the patches of cloth we have, and it’s always different from the life we expected.  Everything we live becomes part of our evolving pattern.  We decide what to do with it.

In the best of worlds, we grow and learn, become wiser, more forgiving and loving, and more at peace.  We adapt, let go of the past and create a different quilt than we originally imagined.  The “what if” questions lose their importance.  We live the life in front of us and create good from it for ourselves and others.  No matter what the fabric, this type of life is a quilt of beauty and love.

Better Than Chocolate Cake

From my Journal of 9/14/2010 (Just one day later!) “Today’s a great day: my doctor gave me a way to take control of my asthma. This is so much better than Monday when I danced to Abba and fixed a wretched recipe with Portobello mushrooms.  Life feels good again! 

I definitely have an underlying asthma condition and we doubled a medication to get it under control.  We have a hypothesis about what else is going on and I can work on that, too.  Having concrete steps to take and a source of data gives me a sense of control.

Thanks to a miraculous plastic gadget called a Peak Flow Meter, I have a game plan, a strategy over which I can take control!  Seldom at a loss for words, I can’t describe how much better it makes me feel. I have hard data when I want it and know what interventions to take.  Now I can tell which symptoms are asthma-related and which are heart-related.  The Dementors are replaced with images of blue skies, orange day lilies and chocolate chip cookies.

What’s a peak flow meter?  I’m glad you asked.  It looks like a giant plastic thermometer or a bizarre pipe for smoking illegal substances.  It’s about ten inches long with a color-coded stripe on it and measures how well your lungs are working at any given time.  You blow into the PFM as hard as you can and see how far you can make the cute yellow gadget inside move inside the tube.  If my yellow gadget is in the Green Zone, I’m good to go.  Yellow Zone: I use my inhaler.  Red Zone:  Oops, call 911.  Now I can catch an asthma attack at the beginning and take action before it gets really bad.  YES!!!  I love the PFM almost as much as flourless chocolate cake.  

I keep a PFM diary to help my doctor know what my lungs are doing between appointments. If you or someone close to you has asthma and you haven’t considered a PFM, check it out.  You can find more information at www.mayoclinic.com.  I have a PFM because I read about it on-line and asked my doctors for one. One doc said he usually only gives them to children but I could have one if I wanted it.  The asthma doctor said, “Absolutely. I meant to do that already.”  I love this guy!  He walked down the hall and brought me one.  If I sound like a PMF convert, well, I am.    

Update on October 14:  The PFM and higher meds have made my asthma much more manageable.  I still have bad days, such as when I ran errands even though it was 112 degrees with air quality warnings.  Afterwards I felt like something my dog might leave behind on a neighbor’s yard.  Oh well. I feel great this morning.  I don’t have to control everything in my life, but this bit of control is excellent.  I think I’ll dance for joy this time.